Like his Mohawk name, Thayendanegea (or "he [who] sets together two bets [i.e. controls a wager]," Joseph Brant balanced the often-conflicting needs of two worlds within his own life. He was born near present day Cleveland, Ohio, and later attended Moor's Charity School (Dartmouth College). He served with the British Army during both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. During the subsequent struggle to control the Northwest Territory, Brant successfully led negotiations for the Six Nations of the Iroquois to gain title to their ancestral lands in Canada.
In 1797, Brant and other Indian leaders toured Charles Willson Peale's Philadelphia Museum during a diplomatic visit to the new United States capital. Peale asked Brant to sit for a portrait to be included among those others in the museum that represented the era's distinguished statesmen. In this portrait, Peale emphasizes Brant's role as a negotiator, rather than as a warrior. Brant's trade silver armband (probably engraved with the Seal of the United States) and his half-moon gorget (likely an earlier gift from the British government) clearly represent the subject's diplomatic alliances. As a man of peace, Brant wears a floral headdress and carries no weapons.
Charles Willson Peale is known to have completed approximately 250 portraits for the Philadelphia Museum, and his son Rembrandt and other family members added to the collection. In 1854, the city of Philadelphia purchased 93 portraits and kept them on the first floor of Independence Hall. In 1974, the National Park Service moved the Peale portraits to the historic Second Bank of the United States, where they have been re-installed after the structure's recent restoration. The portraits are in the collection of Independence National Historical Park.